Agriculture as a potential investment in the Turks and Caicos Islands
The potential for agricultural development in the Turks and Caicos Islands is great. The soil type and climate are conducive for animal production as well as the cultivation of perennial and cash crops on some of the islands. North and Middle Caicos in particular have the potential to support both livestock and crop production. Soil composition, vegetation density, and fresh water availability among other factors make North and Middle Caicos more suitable for agriculture in the TCI.
The following factors should positively influence the government and private investors to exploit the available opportunities for agriculture development:
- Land Availability: The fertile lands of North and Middle Caicos are virtually untouched and are potentially prime for crop and livestock production. Maiden, fertile soils support rapid crop growth, which is a plus for crops. Rapid growth minimises the use of insecticides since pests have less time to become established.
- Pasture Production: Land availability affords another crucial advantage of establishing local pastures to grow fodder for farm animals. Though generally alkaline, the soil type and arid climate is conducive for the growth of many grasses, including Kochia Scoparia, Elephant Grass (pennistum purpureum), Calliandra calothyrsus, and Guinea Grass (Panicum maximum).
- Low Pest Prevalence: The Turks and Caicos Islands has the advantage of having a very low prevalence of some economic phytosanitary pests; and in most cases is free from the deleterious insect pests and molluscs. Low pest prevalence means that farmers escape the exorbitant cost of insecticides, manpower for chemical spraying, and cost of equipment to dispense insecticides. Consequently, production cost of both livestock and crops is greatly reduced.
- Organic Crop Production: Over 90 percent of the food consumed in the TCI is imported. Most come from large commercial farms that rely heavily of the use of chemicals such as fertilisers and insecticides for crops and growth hormones and antibiotics for livestock. Many consumers understand the serious health implications of consuming such foods and therefore crave for organically produced foods. There is a great potential for the cultivation of organic crops here that should be exploited.
- Over-dependency of Imported Food: The inclement weather that besets us annually has the potential to cripple sea transportation, thereby resulting in severe food shortage on the island. Such threat can be mitigated by a needed dynamic shift towards food security in the TCI.
- Economic Development: Agriculture development in the TCI would have obvious spin off such as revenue for the government, increased incomes for farmers/businesses, and jobs for many residents.
- Geography: The country’s close proximity to the United States of America is also a plus to agriculture development. In relation to trade accessibility (export to the US), the country TCI would enjoy a significant competitive edge, since fresh produce can be transported to the US within a shorter timeframe. This phenomenon reduces transportation cost and enables consumers to enjoy farm fresh produce. The potential for niche markets are available in such circumstances.
- Aquaculture: Considering the high cost of fin and shell fish, the potential for the establishment of aquaculture farms is tremendous. Queen Conch (Strombus gigas) from the TCI Conch Farm has already proven its worth on the US Market. Spiny Lobster (Panilurus argus) and Tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus) also have excellent environmental conditions for development.
Finance and Banking
The TCI offer a well-defined regulatory framework within which to operate a comprehensive range of financial activities including banking, insurance, trusts, mutual funds, investment dealing companies and partnerships to the international business community. TCI is home to reputable, international financial services brands such as Scotiabank, CIBC and Royal Bank of Canada along with many other financial service providers.
The insurance market is an important sector and a growth area in the TCI financial services industry. The TCI has developed a niche market for captive insurance companies known as “credit life” or “producer owned reinsurance companies” (PORCS). The TCI insurance legislation provides for these low cost reinsurance companies to be licensed and used by direct writers that are regulated by the regulatory authorities in the United States.
Manufacturing is an untapped frontier of enterprise in the TCI. An evolution has begun in recent times with a gradual shift towards this type of industry fed by high demand through the visiting tourists and the close proximity to major markets. The market for products made locally has grown in tandem with the vast economic and tourism development that has occurred in the islands. The tourism sector, which brings over 1 million visitors a year, provides a regular demand for local goods, from food and drink to souvenirs, from construction materials to items of furniture and interior design. The favorable tax laws in TCI provide significant benefits to TCI based light manufacturing. TCI Government is beginning to explore the introduction of green technologies to the islands and wishes to encourage private sector developers to pursue manufacturing projects in this field.
Mari-Culture and Fishing
The many islands of the Turks and Caicos offer untapped potential as it relates to arable land and bountiful oceans. Indeed, areas such as agro-industries, food processing and Mariculture have been identified as attractive investment fields. Demand for local farm produce and fish by the thriving tourism industry presently well exceeds supply.
The Caicos Islands in particular offer fertile soil and an ideal climate. These facts clearly indicate that agricultural investment could produce investment returns in the short and longer term. Significant amounts of agricultural land exist on North and Middle Caicos and could support new farms producing higher value added crops.
Considering the high cost of fin and shell fish, the potential for the establishment of aquaculture farms is tremendous. Queen Conch (Strombus gigas) from the TCI Conch Farm has already proven its worth on the US Market. Spiny Lobster (Panilurus argus) and Tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus) also have excellent environmental conditions for development.
The TCI can boast state-of-the-art technology within the country and has been a location for major national and international technological development. Telecommunication services across the chain of islands are of advanced standards, with telephone, internet and mobile technology (4G) offered by respectable providers such as LIME, Digicel and Islandcom. Already a mature and well established industry, telecommunications is poised for diversification and competition. WIV offers digital broadcasting services.
The proximity of the TCI to the United States and Canada, paired with the privacy and anonymity that people are able to enjoy here, have enabled the islands to grow as an oasis for those desiring to have a second/third home. Inspired by the beauty of the country, the friendliness of its people and the ease of accessibility, TCI have seen significant development of condo-resorts, hotels and private homes on a very high quality level. Recent increases in occupancy have already led to confirmed investments in the range of 500- 750m USD over the next few years from international developers. Expansion projects are also under way for on-island businesses such as Amanyara and Beaches Resort Villages and Spa. This will be accompanied by growing secondary markets such as retail, food and beverage and other services industries.